Atlanta: Jeff Burton - Friday media visit

Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS, who is currently third in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series points talks with the media about competing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Impala SS Car of Tomorrow and the NCAA tournament. ON THE...

Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS, who is currently third in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series points talks with the media about competing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Impala SS Car of Tomorrow and the NCAA tournament.

ON THE DUKE BASKETBALL GAME LAST NIGHT. WHAT KIND OF DEFENSE WAS DUKE PLAYING DURING THAT LAST POSSESSION? "Obviously we weren't playing defense that last possession. It was a great game. It was fun to watch. It wasn't a fun outcome but it was fun to watch. That guard that VCU's got is one tough guy. He was fun to watch. He had some big shots and heck he was unstoppable. That was neat to watch that. As a Duke fan it wasn't so cool but I still have an appreciation for somebody wanting the ball and he wanted the ball and when he got the ball he did some cool stuff with it. I have a lot of appreciation for that but it was not a good outcome. I appreciate you asking though."

ON HIS SEASON SO FAR AND RUNNING HERE AT ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY: "The year has gone really well. I'm real happy with the things we've been able to do. We had a unique game plan going into Daytona and that worked out for us. California, we ran well all day. At some points in the California race we had the best car, not in all the points but some points for sure. Last week we certainly at times had the best car. I feel like we've put ourselves in position to win really each of the first three races. We didn't put ourselves in position to win as well as one or two others did but we put ourselves in position. Last week that's one of those races you just wish you had back. I think the 48 was incredibly fast but our best was yet to come in that last run. It would have been neat to see what we could make happen but nonetheless we had an engine problem and didn't get a chance to see it through. But on the brighter side of things when you have an engine problem and you finish 15th, you better skip to the trailer because that could have easily been a 39th or a 40th. To come out of there with a 15th with a broken engine, we minimized the damage and we ran very well and that feels really good. We're going to run that car again. This will be the third time we've run that car. We've continued to work and to build cars that are hopefully better than that one but until we get a chance to test them, it's difficult to get off of what's working. There's a test coming pretty soon at Charlotte and hopefully we'll be able to take two different cars there and get them on the race track. We feel good about this car and we're going to run it until we have a chance to prove that we have something better."

ON HIS ENGINE LAST WEEKEND IN LAS VEGAS AND IF UNLEADED FUEL HAD ANYTHING DO WITH THEIR PROBLEM: "No, I don't think it was unleaded fuel. I don't think that had anything to do with it. You always here these stories, we had a five dollar part that caused a problem with the battery being able to be charged. We're still doing an analysis to be quite honest. We think that by the battery not putting enough volts out, that that ended up changing the way the ignition needed to be working and we had a valve problem. We didn't see any problems in any of the other cars and we haven't seen that problem in anything that we've run all year or that we've had in the last several years. There was a circumstance there that we believe affected by something else."

AFTER HAVING SOME TIME TO DIGEST THE CAR OF TOMORROW TEST IN BRISTOL, ARE THERE ANY CHANGES YOU'D LIKE TO DO OR ANYTHING THAT WE'LL SEE DIFFERENTLY FROM WHAT WE SAW IN BRISTOL? "Honestly the more I think about it the more that the Car of Tomorrow is a little bit like the Vegas race. Going into the Vegas race the sky was falling and the world is coming to an end and everything as we know it is going to end today. Of course somebody won the race and somebody finished fifth and somebody finished 10th. That's what I believe is going to happen in Bristol. For 12 months there's been this big aura of terrible things coming with the Car of Tomorrow and when we get there it's going to be a race and somebody is going to do it better than the other people. I honestly believe that when you look back at the Bristol race with the exception of seeing a wing on the top and a splitter on the front, it's still going to look like a Bristol race. I really believe that. The big question is still the inspection process. We left the Bristol test with as many questions about the inspection process as we went there with. To be quite honest, I suspect NASCAR did too. As many things as they are trying to inspect, it's going to be a learning process and we're nervous about that. We'll certainly go in there wanting to abide by the rules and not be caught up in the middle of something but it's conceivable that a team could get caught up in the middle of something without trying to be in the middle of something. NASCAR and teams together are going to have to find a way to work through those things."

HAVING MORE EMPHASIS ON WINS: "I find it humorous that people think that we ride around to finish fifth. I find that humorous. I know some of you guys have heard me answer this before and are tired of hearing it, but there's a time in the race when you have to do the assessment that you can't win the race. There's not 43 cars on the race track that can win the race at the right time. When the race starts, 43 can win. Well 20 laps into the race, now there are only 42 (that can win). Maybe 10 laps later, now there's only 41 and it dwindles down as the race goes on. You find yourself in a position in a race where you determine you can't win that race. That doesn't mean you still don't try to finish the best that you can. I think the problem is you just heard me say that 'Well at least we made a 15th out of it and it wasn't a terrible day.' I'm not saying that I'm really happy we finished 15th. What I'm saying is I'm much happier finishing 15th than I am finishing 30th. So when you finish fifth and you hear a guy get out and he says that was a good point day for us. He's not saying 'Yeehaw, we're happy with fifth.' What he is saying is fifth is a lot better than 15th, but nothing exceeds winning, nothing. The thought that paying more points or paying more money changes how we're going to race to win the race is ludicrous. The whole thing about paying more points and if Brian France was sitting right here I'd say the same thing, the thing about paying points is just to make the fans think it means more. It doesn't mean a darn bit more to me. It doesn't and I swear it doesn't mean any more to Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick or Matt Kenseth. It doesn't mean anything more. Getting that trophy is what means something. That's what we are here to do and this thought that people ride around to finish fifth in some cases is true because fifth is better than 10th but you have to race your butt off to finish fifth. You can't win the race so you have to get up on it to finish fifth. That doesn't mean you're not trying h arder or as hard as the guy that won the race. It just means that on that day you couldn't get it done so you got all you could. If they paid 100 points to win the race and five for every other position things would change without a doubt but that's not what we do. When we go to the All Star race in May when it doesn't matter where you finish except if you win, then yeah things change. But it doesn't work like that in golf or in any sport where there's more than two people playing and that's what our sport is."

ON MARK MARTIN AND HIS CURRENT SITUATION: "Well I hope he does what he wants to do. Matt Kenseth and I, if he runs Bristol, are owed some money. I will tell you that and I will collect it. I honestly don't think he's going to run. If he does run I hope he's doing it because that's what he wants to do not just because that's what other people want him to do. The reason he is where he is and the reason he is as happy as he is is because he's able to do it the way he wants to do it and I hope that that continues for him. If he chooses to do it then that's great. If doesn't choose to do it then that's great too. If he doesn't choose to do it, I hope you guys understand that he's doing it because that's what is making him happy. Knowing there's a weekend off coming for him is a big deal and I hope you guys will appreciate that and the things that you write will be with great respect rather than saying he is giving away a chance to win a championship because he deserves to be treated with respect and his decision deserves to be respected."

ON TEAMS SAYING THEY AREN'T GETTING THROUGH INSPECTION IN TIME TO GET ENOUGH TIME OUT ON THE TRACK. IS IT A LEGITIMATE CONCERN THAT? HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN THAT SITUATION? IN REGARDS TO MARK MARTIN, COULD YOU GET OUT OF THE CAR IF YOU WERE LEADING THE POINTS? "I have been in that situation and it is without a doubt not only a distraction but puts you at a deficit. I believe inspection starts on Thursday at Bristol so they are trying to build some time in to handle it. Could I get of the car, no I couldn't but I'm not at the point in my life where he is. When I get to the point in my career where I've made that decision then probably yeah there's no doubt I could. I do it every week in the Busch car. When I didn't go to Mexico to run, I wasn't sitting at home going 'Oh my God, I'm not in Mexico.' As a matter of fact, I only watched the last 10 laps of the race. When they go to run a few weeks from now and I'm not running the car, I'm not going to be flipped out about it. So I could see how you could be there but I'm not there yet, just because of where I am in my career and the time of my life."

ON VERIZON'S PLANS TO SPONSOR ROBBY GORDON'S BUSCH CAR: "I haven't thought much about it on the surface of it. It appears to me to be two different series so that's on the surface of it. But I don't have enough information to make comment about it. I will say to you that there's a tremendous amount of effort from AT&T and Cingular to try to get this thing resolved. And by the way, it's something that needs to be resolved. It's got us in a situation that we certainly don't want to be in. Cingular has been here for a long time and I'd like to believe that reasonable people can come to reasonable solutions. I can't comment about any other company or teams' situation because I don't have knowledge of it but I have a lot of knowledge about what is going on with my situation. We have a sponsor that has been here a long time and changing a name and there has to be a reasonable way to work through that.

"It's going to have to be resolved. There comes a point where there are decisions that have to be made. From a company standpoint we can't operate without sponsorship. We're going to have to get it resolved. Sponsors just don't fall out of trees. We could be in the position of not having sponsorship and of course that puts me and my whole team in a position to decide what we are going to do. I certainly don't want to be in that position especially when we have a company that is willing to step up to the plate and sponsor us for many, many years in the future. It's an interesting position to be in but it has to be resolved. Me as a driver, I have no choice to have it resolved. Richard Childress as a car owner, we have no choice to have it resolved. And the people at Cingular and AT&T, they have no choice to have it resolved it either. There has to be some resolution. Again all I can do is hope that reasonable people will come to a reasonable solution. I believe that Cingular and AT&T are doing their part. We'll see what happens."

STATING CONCERNS LAST FALL HERE ABOUT HAVING 50-PLUS TEAMS. WITH TOYOTA'S PERFORMANCE SO FAR, ARE YOU LESS CONCERNED NOW? CAN YOU ALSO ELABORATE ON YOUR BET WITH MARK MARTIN? "I'd never make a bet unless I think it's a sure thing and I am on the fence right now thinking I might not have made a wise bet. His feet are dug in the sand pretty hard but there's still time. My opinion about what is going on with the number of teams is because of what is going on right now. It was really clear what was going to be going on right now. There's a lot of sponsors that are spending a tremendous amount of money that haven't been able to be in the shows and that's not healthy. It's a really difficult thing. It's a great thing that we have that many companies that want to be involved in our sport but long term when we do have those companies that want to be involved in our sport we have to find a way to protect them and find a way to make sure they are taken care of which is why I believe that we're best served having 43 teams. That goes against everything that this sport has ever been about but things move, things change. It's unlike golf, you'll have to excuse me I don't know my numbers, but if 64 golfers - I'm making that number up so don't anybody yell at me - make the final two rounds and 112 tried to make it, that's a bad thing for the ones that didn't make it but they have 400 employees. They don't have the capital expenses that are incurred by a Cup team. If we're going to ask our car owners to make the investment, it's not about keeping the little guy down and making the big guy healthy. It's about making sure that our car owners can operate self-sustaining successful businesses. It's not about the drivers. It's about the car owners being able to operate under a business structure that allows them in most situations to be successful. Currently if you're in the top 35, everything is great but if you're not, everything is not. I don't know the answer other than to have 43 teams but how you pick those 43 teams is beyond m e so it's very complicated. But there is long term potential trouble in having sponsors that aren't in the show. That's obvious."

ON BILL FRANCE JR. BEING HOSPITALIZED THIS WEEK AND HIS ROLE IN THE HISTORY OF NASCAR: "I've had the privilege to get to know Bill the last four years much better than I had previously. He's an old-school tough-nosed kind of a guy that I have a tremendous amount of respect for especially after getting to know him better. His role in the impact of the sport has been huge. His personality came at a time when it was what our sport needed. I think he did an incredible job of basing his opinion on what he believed the facts to be and then having the courage to make that decision and see it through. He ain't a wafflier. He ain't a guy that's going to say this is what I think and then half-assed do anything. He's just going to go do it. Part of leadership is having the guts to make a decision and then having the guts to stand by it and making it work. That's what he did on a lot of occasions. He did it in a way that let you know who the boss was and also did it in a way that you respected him and I've said it all along, I think that is the cornerstone in our sport.

"As much as a driver I'd like to have a common voice, it's not in our best interest as a sport for that. It's in the best interest of our sport to have an iron fist that understands what is best for the sport and what is best for the fans to be making those decisions. That's what Bill, in my opinion, has done and still continues to contribute at NASCAR and a way of saying this is what we need to do because without the fans we're nothing. It's a lot about the drivers but we can't make the decisions about the drivers and the car owners. That general principle has been what has taken this sport to where it is and I'd put that on his shoulders. I may be wrong, but I think he was the guy that was strong enough, tough enough to says this is how it's going to be. His personality was such that when he sat down and talked to you as a car owner or a driver or a sponsor or anybody else, he had that persona that says this is how we are doing it and this is how it's going to be. I think that that is what we needed and I have greatly benefited from that and I put that on his shoulders. I think that he's the one that did that, obviously with a lot of help from a lot of people but he was the man out front doing it. One thing you can say is without a doubt is he ruled by what he believed was right based on what he thought was for the overall good of the sport. I said it for the fifth time but that's why we are here."

-credit: gm racing

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Mark Martin